Political Will and Partnerships Key to Ending Child Labour, says ILO’s Joni Musabayana

Dr Joni Musabayana, Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) says it will take strong commitments and political will to end child labour in Africa. Credit: Fawzia Moodley/IPS

Dr Joni Musabayana, Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) says it will take strong commitments and political will to end child labour in Africa. Credit: Fawzia Moodley/IPS

By Fawzia Moodley
Durban, May 18 2022 – With a strong commitment from governments, businesses, labour and consumers, the scourge of child labour can be eliminated, says Dr Joni Musabayana, Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Pretoria, South Africa.

Speaking to IPS in an exclusive interview at the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in Durban, Musabayana was upbeat despite an increase in child labour worldwide. International efforts to end the scourge are under pressure to reach the United Nations goal of ending child labour by 2025.

Musabayana also spoke of the Durban Call To Action – expected to be ratified at the end of the conference.

“It  is not so much about legally binding but to give impetus to accelerate the efforts to address a problem using good practice.”

Musabayana says the sizeable high-level contingent of African delegates is a good sign for the continent, which carries the biggest burden of child labour.

“It is agreed that of the 160 million children in labour, 92 million are on the African continent. The turnout of 60% to 70 % African delegates, just by coming, shows their commitment to redouble their efforts to address this scourge.”

The key drivers of child labour in Africa are agriculture, bonded labour on the farms, mining, fishing, sexual exploitation of young children and informal and domestic work.

“You need multiple stakeholders and an integrated approach. It is not only about the government, but it has to show leadership because the fundamental pillars of solving child labour are largely access to free education, food schemes for children, and child support grants.

“These are policy instruments that South Africa is showing leadership in. Other African countries are following, and they are pointing us in the direction of what needs to be done.”

Political will and partnerships are vital to ending child labour.

Musabayana says: “What we need is extra political will, which we hope this conference will generate, to ensure that these programmes are well resourced, implemented, well monitored.

“Partnerships must be established with civil society, the employers employing child labour, and the unions working with these children.”

He encourages the media to expose instances of child labour, “if I could say to ‘name and shame’ those who continue to perpetuate this abhorrent practice.”

On the issue of global supply chains, he says: “We are happy that the CEOs of Nestle and Cocoa Cola have been with us and other big businesses. (It’s) important to see that they do not find it acceptable to source products and services made and facilitated through child labour.

Talking is not enough, though.

“It is not enough to make this point but crucial to cut off access to goods and services associated in their value chain with child labour.”

Musabayana adds: “Most critical is the end consumer, whether in China or the US or indeed the African continent or in Europe. I think everybody abhors products and services got through child labour, and we need to highlight which products are on the market and why end consumers should disassociate themselves with them.”

It’s emerged that many child labourers are employed by their own families. Musabayana blames this on poverty, saying no parent “willingly says I will send my child to work in a farm using hazardous chemicals.”

Therefore, the ILO seeks social protection for vulnerable families “to ensure that no one falls below a certain level of human survival.”

It also supports social support grants and basic income grants.

“These are policy instruments to ensure that families are not in such want and hunger, and in such need that they feel it necessary to use children to augment the family income.”

But where will the money come from?

“Clearly, the affordability of social security packages is a necessary debate, but we will always start by saying if you think it’s expensive to have a social protection plan, try the alternative.

“What kind of a society would we have?  We already have a fairly unequal society, and then what happens if we don’t take clear measures to ensure that those at the bottom of the pyramid lead a decent life,” Musabayana asks.

Earlier this week Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi told the conference the estimated cost of a social protection package for all children was 53 billion US dollars per annum.

As for a decent living wage, Musabayana says: “The ILO has supported the concept of a national minimum wage and the principle of collective bargaining so that working people must negotiate with their employers an agreement on what is a fair remuneration.”

The ILO also supports a national living wage. But Musabayana says it must be done responsibly: “We must have a gradual approach so that it is affordable and businesses that are supposed to carry this cost are still able to make a profit because we must not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.”

“I don’t think we should give up now and throw out hands in the air. We must ensure that come 2025, we can say – we did accelerate, we did remove many children, but more importantly, we should make sure no more children are entering the child labour.”

New Medicines May Help End AIDS– but High Prices & Monopolies Could Keep the Poor Locked Out

A man is tested for HIV at a health centre in Odienné, Côte d’Ivoire. Credit: UNICEF/Frank Dejongh

By Matthew Kavanagh and Eamonn Murphy
WASHINGTON DC, May 18 2022 – Here’s the good news: there are a new set of breakthrough medicines to prevent and treat HIV, known as “long actings” because they can be taken every few months instead of every day, and they are coming on-stream. If, as they are rolled out, they are made available at scale, they could help save many lives and help end the AIDS pandemic.

But here’s the bad news: on the current trajectory, most people who need them will not be able to get them any time soon, because high prices and monopolies will keep people in low- and middle-income countries locked out. That’s where we are heading – again.

UNAIDS has been convening some of the world’s leading scientists and researchers. They have emphasised to us that long-acting drugs for prevention are available now – an injection every few months that very effectively protects against HIV transmission. It has been approved in the U.S. and the World Health Organization (WHO) is reviewing it now.

And in the near term, there are in addition exciting medicines in development for long-acting treatment – which could make it far easier for people to stay on life-long HIV treatment, even when their lives make getting pills every day difficult.

New HIV prevention tools like long-acting pre-exposure prophylactic (PrEP) are particularly needed to fight the ongoing pandemic. In 2020, a year for which the world had set a collective goal of reducing new infections below 500,000, there were, in fact, 1.5 million; and in too many communities new HIV infections are rising.

Long-acting injectable PrEP could help fill critical HIV prevention needs for those facing the worlds’ highest HIV risks – particularly those whose lives, logistics, and legal contexts make accessing and taking oral prep challenging.

This includes people facing discrimination, including gay men, transgender people, sex workers, and people who use drugs in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe. Young African women, facing far higher risks than young men of their age, also need new HIV prevention options.

Studies have shown many people want a long-acting option, and indeed an estimated 74 million people around the world use long-acting injections to prevent pregnancy. Carefully done studies presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) showed long-acting PrEP can prevent more new infections than taking a pill every day.

If and when WHO endorses its use, the world should move fast to make it available at scale. The best way to ensure this breakthrough science translates into a global game-changer it is to make it available free to all who choose it.

UN member states agreed a new Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS last year that sets an ambitious goal of getting access to PrEP for 11 million people by 2025. For this to be possible, the governments and institutions who will need to make large scale purchases will need to be able to do so at a price that they can afford.

Right now, in the U.S. long-acting PrEP costs tens of thousands of dollars. But members of UNAIDS’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) assess that long-acting prep can be manufactured affordably – tens of dollars instead of tens of thousands. It would be possible for prices to come down whilst ensuring continued profitability for producers.

For treatment, the science is also moving rapidly and promising technologies on the way could be transformative. As of last year, 28.2 million people were on HIV treatment – that’s over 10 billion times every year people living with HIV take a pill.

But 10 million more people still need access to HIV treatment. If people could choose a pill that lasted a week or an injection that lasted months it would make it easier for many to start and sustain treatment – saving lives and stopping HIV transmission.

One key structural barrier that jeopardizes widespread access is the fact that production of these medicines is so far monopolized by a tiny number of companies based in a tiny number of countries, keeping prices high and limiting (and concentrating) supply. We know from experience (on the first ARVs, on the second generation of ARVs, and with COVID-19 vaccines and medicines) that this barrier can only be overcome through intervention.

When treatment for HIV first became available in the late 1990s, ARV monopolies meant the price was over $10,000 per person per year, a price far out of reach for the millions of people living with HIV.

As a consequence,12 million Africans died. Mass use of antiretrovirals to stop AIDS came only when low- and middle-income countries defied pressure and triggered generic competition, and when global civil society pressured Western governments and companies to stop working to block them.

That experience led the world to say never again to allowing people in developing countries to be locked out access to life-saving medical technology. But the same exclusionary and deadly approach has denied Africa access to sufficient vaccines in the COVID-19 crisis.

And on the current trajectory we are on course to repeat the story with new HIV medicines. It could be years before new drugs becoming available in New York or London ever reach those who need them most in Manila, Freetown, Maputo, Sao Paolo and Port-au-Prince.

An alternative approach is available, that ensures the translation of science into impact. Manufacturers of HIV drugs can set prices at affordable levels for low- and middle-income countries. To secure this for the long term, generic production in low- and middle-income countries is essential.

To do that we have to overcome monopolies. Pooling patents and pro-actively transferring technology can make it possible for a wider set of manufacturers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to make long-acting ARVs at low costs. This must be standard practice – and the sharing of information can start even before regulatory approval for use.

Of course, price and local production are not the only barriers to ensuring effective use. Some public health systems may require global solidarity and support to purchase commodities, with logistics and storage, training for effective provision, and engaging communities to ensure demand and treatment literacy for retention. The joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, and our partners, are providing support on all of these.

Building from emergency action on COVID-19, we need to end inequalities in access right across health technologies, by spurring the best science and getting it to everyone, investing in all health innovations as global public goods.

To stop today’s pandemics and to prevent future pandemics, it is vital to move from monopolizing knowledge about lifesaving health technologies to sharing it worldwide. We need to reform rules on the protection of intellectual property that have failed us in these pandemics, so that access to life-saving science is no longer dependent on the passport you hold or the money in your pocket.

We need governments to use their powers to compel sharing of pandemic science and technology and ways to compel companies and countries to use WHO-led mechanisms. We need to separate incentives for innovation from monopolies on manufacturing. Monopolies constrain supply, perpetuate unaffordable prices, widen inequalities, and have proven an unreliable driver of innovation, especially for those health issues that disproportionately impact people living in poverty.

We need to invest now in building health production capacity all over the world. We need to prioritise investment in universities and other public research institutions to enhance our technical capacity to develop medical technologies for all.

We can end the AIDS pandemic. And the COVID-19 pandemic. And stop the pandemics of the future. But we are not on track – in part because biomedical breakthroughs are not getting to those who need them most. If we act on long-acting ARVs, many people who would otherwise have acquired HIV will not. People living with HIV who would otherwise have died of AIDS will not. And the well-being and dignity of people at risk of or living with HIV can be enhanced.

Equitable global access to pandemic-fighting technologies cannot be achieved through the default operation of the market alone. It is policy and practice dependent. Work on those policies cannot wait until all those technologies have been rolled out at scale in rich countries, but needs to be accelerated now.

Leaders from civil society networks, especially those led by people living with HIV and by key populations, are calling for us to act now to ensure global access to new HIV technologies. We can and we should.

Shared science will save lives and stop pandemics.

IPS UN Bureau

 


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Excerpt:

The writers are Deputy Executive Directors of the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)

Oil Business Burns Enough Gas to Power the Whole Sub-Sahara or Two Thirds of Europe

Global gas flaring increased to 144 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2021 from 142 bcm in 2020. It is estimated that each cubic metre of associated gas flared results in about 2.8 kilograms of CO2-equivalent emissions. Credit: public domain

Global gas flaring increased to 144 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2021 from 142 bcm in 2020. It is estimated that each cubic metre of associated gas flared results in about 2.8 kilograms of CO2-equivalent emissions. Credit: public domain

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, May 18 2022 – While the attention of mostly Western media and politicians is quasi exclusively hoarded up by the proxy war in Ukraine and its consequences on the energy sector, the world’s big oil business continues to burn Planet Earth with its underreported though highly polluting, wasteful practice of gas flaring.

This is anything but a minor issue: in fact, as much as 144 billion cubic metres of gas was flared at upstream oil and gas facilities in just one year-2021. Such an amount caused the emission of 400 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, according to the World Bank.

Ten countries account for three-quarters of gas flaring. Out of these ten, seven oil producing countries –Russia, Iraq, Iran, the United States, Venezuela, Algeria, and Nigeria — have remained the top seven consistently over the last ten years, according to a World Bank report

Flaring is “a monumental waste of a valuable natural resource” that should either be used for productive purposes, such as generating power, or conserved.

 

Enough to power the whole sub-Saharan Africa…

For instance, the amount of gas that is currently flared each year – about 144 billion cubic metres – could power the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, the World Bank explains.

 

… And to generate 65% of Europe’s domestic power

However, the world still flared enough gas to generate approximately 1,800 Terawatt hours (TWh) of energy, almost two-thirds of the European Union’s net domestic electricity generation.

 

But, what is gas flaring?

Gas flaring is the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction. The practice has persisted from the beginning of oil production over 160 years ago and takes place due to a range of issues, from market and economic constraints, to a lack of appropriate regulation and political will, explains the World Bank.

Its Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR) report estimates that global gas flaring increased to 144 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2021 from 142 bcm in 2020.

“Gas flaring contributes to climate change and impacts the environment through emission of CO2, black carbon and other pollutants. It is estimated that each cubic metre of associated gas flared results in about 2.8 kilograms of CO2-equivalent emissions.”

 

Ten countries account for 75% of gas flaring

In its May 2022 report, the World Bank also specifies that just ten countries account for three-quarters of gas flaring.

Out of these ten, seven oil producing countries –Russia, Iraq, Iran, the United States, Venezuela, Algeria, and Nigeria — have remained the top seven consistently over the last ten years.

Ending flaring and methane emissions is key to the energy transition, nevertheless the global progress to reduce it has stalled over the last decade, further underscoring the urgency to accelerate the decarbonisation of the world’s economies.

 

Subsidising climate disastres

In spite of the scientifically evidenced fact that oil, gas and carbon industry is one of the major contributors to global warming, politicians continue to subsidise the fossil fuels business with shocking amounts of taxpayers money.

In fact, in a 2021 study: Still Not Getting Energy Prices Right: A Global and Country Update of Fossil Fuel Subsidies, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that globally, fossil fuel subsidies were 5.9 trillion US dollars in 2020 or about 6.8 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). And that such subsidies are expected to rise to 7.4 percent of GDP in 2025.

In the case of the United States, the government provides a heavy public subsidy to petroleum companies, with major tax breaks at virtually every stage of oil exploration and extraction, including the costs of oil field leases and drilling equipment.

 

The grim picture

The profit-making fossil fuels sector appears not to care about the real dangers of growing climate emergencies.

Such emergencies are already here. For instance, there is a 50:50 chance of the annual average global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5 °C above the pre-industrial level for at least one of the next five years – and the likelihood is increasing with time, according to a new climate update issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

There is a 93% likelihood of at least one year between 2022-2026 becoming the warmest on record and dislodging 2016 from the top ranking.

The chance of the five-year average for 2022-2026 being higher than the last five years (2017-2021) is also 93%, according to the Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update, produced by the United Kingdom’s Met Office, the WMO lead centre for such predictions.

 

Not just a random statistic

The chance of temporarily exceeding 1.5°C has risen steadily since 2015, when it was close to zero. For the years between 2017 and 2021, there was a 10% chance of exceedance. That probability has increased to nearly 50% for the 2022-2026 period, the WMO on 9 May 2022 reported.

“This study shows – with a high level of scientific skill – that we are getting measurably closer to temporarily reaching the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The 1.5°C figure is not some random statistic.

“It is rather an indicator of the point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for people and indeed the entire planet,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

 

The looming dangers

“For as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases, temperatures will continue to rise. And alongside that, our oceans will continue to become warmer and more acidic, sea ice and glaciers will continue to melt, sea level will continue to rise and our weather will become more extreme. Arctic warming is disproportionately high and what happens in the Arctic affects all of us.”

 

More bla, bla, bla?

The 2015 Paris Agreement sets long-term goals to guide all nations to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 °C while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5 °C.

Meanwhile, under heavy pressures by big business, politicians continue to pour empty promises, fixing new never-to-be-met commitments, cackling in world sumits and international big gatherings. What for?

Africa Expected to Strongly Support Durban Call to Action on Child Labour

African Union Commission Department of Trade and Industry, head of industry Houssein Guedi highlighted how 92,2 million of the world's children entrapped in child labour live in Africa, at the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in Durban. Credit: Lyse Comins/IPS

African Union Commission Department of Trade and Industry, head of industry Houssein Guedi highlighted how 92,2 million of the world’s children entrapped in child labour live in Africa, at the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in Durban. Credit: Lyse Comins/IPS

By Lyse Comins
Durban, May 17 2022 – Global goals to eradicate child labour will not be achieved without a breakthrough in Africa, where most of the world’s 160 million children entrapped in child labour work in rural regions, mostly in agriculture with their families.

This is why the “Durban Call to Action” to eradicate child labour, spearheaded by the African Union (AU), the International Labour Organization (ILO), civil society organisations and other world leaders, is crucial and must be implemented by the countries on the continent.

Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa of ILO Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon told delegates that the draft “Durban Call to Action”, expected to be finalised and formally adopted in the city on Friday, recognised the need to drive change in the world. She was speaking during a high-level panel discussion at the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in Durban.

Samuel-Olonjuwon concentrated on continental-specific challenges, policy priorities and strategic partnerships to end child labour in Africa.

Samuel-Olonjuwon said the ILO had already supported the adoption and implementation of the African Union Ten Year Action Plan on Eradication of Child Labour, Forced Labour, Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in Africa (2020-2030), which was the first plan of its kind in the world.

She said stakeholders engaged in the drive to eliminate child labour had developed the foundation of the draft “Durban Call to Action” when they met in Johannesburg to prepare for the conference in November 2021.

“The ILO will support the implementation of the Durban Call to Action in line with ILO conventions and the AU action plan on child labour,” Samuel-Olonjuwon said.

She said efforts needed to be coordinated across regions to be effective.

“Africa has shown that it is ready to drive the change to accelerate action to end child labour. We recognise there is still a long way to go, but we also know the commitment, understanding and the resolve to take action now, is widely shared. The need to act with urgency, especially for making progress on an annual basis, is also widely shared. We must coordinate our efforts, especially with those of us who are development partners, in close collaboration with the private sector, civil society and we as social partners and agencies,” she said.

African Union Commission Department of Trade and Industry, head of industry Houssein Guedi, highlighted the current status quo of child labour on the continent and the foundational points of the draft Durban Call to Action plan.

He said 92,2 million of the world’s 160 million children entrapped in child labour live in Africa. This equates to  21,6% of the continent’s 400 million child population. Most of the children in child labour live in Eastern Africa (29,8%), Western Africa (22,8%), Central Africa (19,3%), Southern Africa (16,7%) and Northern Africa (6,1%).

“Most child labourers are very young – almost 60% are less than 12 years of age. Child labour is more prevalent among boys than girls. Child labour is predominantly a rural and agricultural phenomenon (81% of children in child labour),” Guedi said.

Some 45% of children in child labour are engaged in hazardous work. About 72% of children were combining school with work, although 32,2 million children of primary school-going age are not in school, despite a substantial improvement in access to education between 1990 and 2019.

Guedi said child labour often occurred in correlation with broader development challenges, such as in countries with high levels of informal employment, where populations received at least one social benefit, and a large percentage of the population is living below the poverty line.

He said there was now “unprecedented awareness, commitment and political will”, shown by a high level of ratifications on the continent and the implementation of policies and legislation to end child labour in recent years.

“We’ve seen some good practices emerging which could inspire Africa and the rest of the world,” Guedi said.

However, he added that there were still gaps in legislation, a lack of data for planning and weak enforcement, particularly in the agricultural sector and informal economy where child labour prevails.

“In Johannesburg, we discussed the importance of taking into account the salient features of child labour on the continent – young, rural, agriculture, family work, hazardous work, out of school/combining school and work – and key development challenges underlying child labour,” Guedi said.

He said stakeholders had agreed to actions which would form the basis of the Durban Call to Action.

These included the need to:

  • Focus on prevention and the root causes
  • Achieve impact at scale through adequately financing public policies and programmes
  • Focus on the most immediate major challenges and most actionable in terms of time frames for achieving results
  • Accelerate action to ensure quality universal education for all boys and girls
  • Expand social protection for workers in the informal economy and the agricultural sector
  • Secure decent work for adults
  • Focus on the school to work transition
  • Fill gaps in legislation for effective action against child labour, especially the worst forms
  • Take large scale action in agriculture and rural development
  • Develop measures to deal with child labour in conflict and crises
  • Increase financing for child labour activities
  • Mobilise political and social support to build momentum for accelerated action
  • Improve the availability of quality child labour data and research

Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) assistant director-general and Africa representative Abebe Haile Gabriel said the continent needed to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security, which had affected the most vulnerable families. He said the continent needed to promote mechanised agriculture to reduce reliance on children, expand social security to improve farmers’ resilience and provide free access to relevant education.

Ugandan Minister for Gender, Labour, and Social Development, Amongi Betty Ongom, said the pandemic had led to parents losing their jobs when economic sectors went into lockdown, many children had lost two years of schooling, and some had not returned due to a lack of affordability when schools eventually reopened.

African Union Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Industry and Mining, Albert Mudenda Muchangam, said child labour “destroyed the future of our children”.

“You find child labour in mining and in households – some are paid, but lowly paid, and others are completely unpaid, which is modern-day slavery. We have a test, each one of us, to ensure we end the scourge of child labour,”  Muchangam said.

“We have an obligation to eradicate child labour and to bring them up and give them the opportunity to learn and to play with their friends so they should grow up as decent human beings. The persistence of child labour undermines that, and it also contributes to destroying their lives. Let us join forces together to fight the scourge of child labour wherever we see it,” Muchangam said.

This is one of a series of stories that IPS will publish during the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in Durban, South Africa.

IPS UN Bureau Report

 


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Child Labour: No Quick End to Children Trapped in Tobacco Production

Children working on tobacco farms in Chipangali District in Eastern Province of Zambia. Credit: Brenda Chitindi

 
       “Most major tobacco producing countries use child labour in tobacco growing. Almost no cigarette can be
         guaranteed to be free from child labour.”
                                        British Medical Journal, 2015.

By Judith Mackay and Leonce Dieudonne Leonce
HONG KONG / LOME, May 17 2022 – Despite World Day Against Child Labour launched in 2002 by the International Labour Organization (ILO), little has changed over the past two decades for the millions of children who remain trapped.

To rescue children and achieve sustainable human and health rights improvements, laws that make corporations accountable and change power relations between workers and companies are needed, rather than voluntary industry codes and corporate charity.

The global tobacco industry, valued at 850B USD (2021) with the 6 largest companies earning 55 B USD in profit (2015), is profiting off the backs of an estimated 1.3 million children involved in tobacco production worldwide.

For many farming households in low-income countries, growing tobacco offers only a precarious livelihood, overshadowed by debt and the threat of poverty, in stark contrast to the profits of the big tobacco companies. Many smallholder farmers – who produce much of the world’s tobacco leaf – feel they have little choice but to enlist their children to work.

According to the global tobacco industry watch, STOP, tobacco companies have the power and resources to determine the level of wages and price of agricultural inputs, and can control the salaries that suppliers or contractors pay. However, their practices worsen children’s plight. They use layers of contracts to avoid direct responsibility for growers and workers, keep leaf prices low, and provide loans that keep farmers dependent.

To obscure the real problem, they use agricultural front groups, and partnerships with renowned organizations to undertake token community activities. All these effectively suppress progress towards diversification of strategies that would remove children from tobacco farming.

According to STOP, the first step to eliminating child labor in tobacco is to expose and remove tobacco industry interference.

Child labor in tobacco falls under “worst forms of child labor” due to the hazardous nature of handling tobacco. This mainly occurs in the tobacco fields and bidi factories, but can also occur throughout the whole tobacco cycle, for example, children selling cigarettes.

Children working with tobacco are placed at high risk of injury and illness, for example ‘Green Tobacco Sickness’ caused by nicotine poisoning through the skin. The absorption of nicotine causes symptoms which include nausea, weakness, dizziness, headaches and breathing difficulties. They are also exposed to large and frequent applications of pesticides, herbicides and fumigants that leads to a range of risks.

Child tobacco workers often labor 50 or 60 hours a week in extreme heat, use sharp and dangerous tools, lift heavy loads, and climb into the rafters of barns, risking serious injuries and falls.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 28% of children working in agriculture in general do not attend school at all, a blow to their best chance of avoiding the generational poverty trap.

Children’s voices drowned

Tobacco leaf is grown in more than 120 countries, but the incidence of child labor is under reported. In 2020, the US Department of Labor listed 19 countries which use child and forced labour in tobacco production is present.

Among them is Malawi from which tobacco imports to US were temporarily disallowed when Malawi children sued British American Tobacco (BAT) and Imperial Brands, seeking compensation for damages arising from child labor.

Meanwhile, tobacco industry corporate social responsibility (CSR) obscures the plight of children in low- and middle- income countries (LMICs). Tobacco industry-backed publicity includes information of how 204,000 children were removed or kept away from child labor detracting from the legal and human rights of children exploited or the just compensation required to undo decades of harm.

Some governments have yet to resist so-called CSR of tobacco companies and realize that the tobacco industry is the problem and not partners in the elimination of child labor. The global treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) recommends the adoption of farmer and worker-driven policies towards diversification that are sustainably financed and protected from tobacco industry interference.

Tobacco tax increases can potentially finance diversification programs, but advocates must struggle against the dilution of political will, brought on by token donations from the tobacco industry. According to the treaty, governments should ban and denormalize so-called CSR of the tobacco industry, as practiced in over 40 countries.

The Tobacco Industry’s Global Candy

The Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) Foundation, sponsored by big tobacco companies influence the anti-child labor narrative across the world. Through the ECLT, tobacco companies partnered with and funded the ILO and governments to position themselves as safeguarding the rights of child worker and “being part of the solution”.

While ECLT achieved little in reducing child labor, it added to the glossy sustainability reports of tobacco companies designed to attract more investors.

After coming to the conclusion that tobacco industry sponsorship has not led to much progress in eliminating child labor, in 2018 ILO announced it will not renew ECLT and tobacco industry funding. However, links between the ILO and the ECLT remains.

While the United Nations Global Compact delisted tobacco companies from its program, the ECLT remains in the program despite civil society protests that the UNGC participation is a violation of the compact’s policies, the Model Policy for Agencies of the UN System on Preventing Tobacco Industry Interference and WHO FCTC.

The ILO Decent Work Agenda and various Conventions are instruments to facilitate prohibition of forced or compulsory labor. But if these are not implemented, our children are betrayed and remain entrapped.

Footnote: The ILO’s 5th Global Child Labour Conference is taking place in Durban, South Africa, May 15-20.

Prof Judith Mackay is Asian is the Director of the Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control, Hong Kong, and Leonce Dieudonné Sessou is Executive Secretary of the African Tobacco Control Alliance, Togo

IPS UN Bureau

 


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When Saviours Are the Problem

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 2022 – Central bank policies have often worsened economic crises instead of resolving them. By raising interest rates in response to inflation, they often exacerbate, rather than mitigate business cycles and inflation.

Neither gods nor maestros
US Federal Reserve Bank chair Jerome Powell has admitted: “Whether we can execute a soft landing or not, it may actually depend on factors that we don’t control.” He conceded, “What we can control is demand, we can’t really affect supply with our policies. And supply is a big part of the story here”.

Anis Chowdhury

Hence, decisionmakers must consider more appropriate policy tools. Rejecting ‘one size fits all’ formulas, including simply raising interest rates, anti-inflationary measures should be designed as appropriate. Instead of squelching demand by raising interest rates, supply could be enhanced.

Thus, Milton Friedman – whom many central bankers still worship – blamed the 1930s’ Great Depression on the US Fed. Instead of providing liquidity support to businesses struggling with short-term cash-flow problems, it squeezed credit, crushing economic activity.

Similarly, before becoming Fed chair, Ben Bernanke’s research team concluded, “an important part of the effect of oil price shocks [in the 1970s] on the economy results not from the change in oil prices, per se, but from the resulting tightening of monetary policy”.

Adverse impacts of the 1970s’ oil price shocks were worsened by the reactions of monetary policymakers, which caused stagflation. That is, US Fed and other central bank interventions caused economic stagnation without mitigating inflation.

Likewise, the longest US recession after the Great Depression, during the 1980s, was due to interest rate hikes by Fed chair Paul Volcker. A recent New York Times op-ed warned, “The Powell pivot to tighter money in 2021 is the equivalent of Mr. Volcker’s 1981 move” and “the 2020s economy could resemble the 1980s”.

Monetary policy for supply shocks?
Food prices surged in 2011 due to weather-related events ruining harvests in major food producing nations, such as Australia and Russia. Meanwhile, fuel prices soared with political turmoil in the Middle East.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

However, Boston Fed head Eric Rosengren argued, “tightening monetary policy solely in response to contractionary supply shocks would likely make the impact of the shocks worse for households and businesses”.

Referring to Boston Fed research, he noted commodity price changes did not affect the long-run inflation rate. Other research has also concluded that commodity price shocks are less likely to be inflationary.

This reduced inflationary impact has been attributed to ‘structural changes’ such as workers’ diminished bargaining power due to labour market deregulation, technological innovation and globalization.

Hence, central banks are no longer expected to respond strongly to food and fuel price increases. Policymakers should not respond aggressively to supply shocks – often symptomatic of broader macroeconomic developments.

Instead, central banks should identify the deeper causes of food and fuel price rises, only responding appropriately to them. Wrong policy responses can compound, rather than mitigate problems.

Appropriate innovations
A former Philippines central bank Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr noted it had not responded strongly to higher food and fuel prices in 2004. He stressed, “authorities should ignore changes in the price of things that they cannot control”.

Tetangco warned, “the required policy response is not… straightforward… Thus policy makers will need to make a choice between bringing down inflation and raising output growth”. He emphasized, “a real sector supply side response may be more appropriate in addressing the pressure on prices”.

Thus, instead of restricting credit indiscriminately, financing constraints on desired industries (e.g., renewable energy) should be eased. Enterprises deemed inefficient or undesirable – e.g., polluters or those engaged in speculation – should have less access to the limited financing available.

This requires designing macroeconomic policies to enable dynamic new investments, technologies and economic diversification. Instead of reacting with blunt interest rate policy tools, policymakers should know how fiscal and monetary policy tools interact and impact various economic activities.

Used well, these can unlock supply bottlenecks, promote desired investments and enhance productivity. As no one size fits all, each policy objective will need appropriate, customized, often innovative tools.

Lessons from China
China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), developed “structural monetary policy” tools and new lending programmes to help victims of COVID-19. These ensured ample interbank liquidity, supported credit growth, and strengthened domestic supply chains.

Outstanding loans to small and micro businesses rose 25% to 20.8 trillion renminbi by March 2022 from a year before. By January, the interest rate for loans to over 48 million small and medium enterprises had dropped to 4.5%, the lowest level since 1978.

The PBOC has also provided banks with loan funds for promising, innovative and creditworthy companies, e.g., involved in renewable energy and digital technologies. It thus achieves three goals: fostering growth, maintaining debt at sustainable levels, and ‘green transformation’.

Defying global trends, China’s ‘factory-gate’ (or producer price) inflation fell to a one-year low in April 2022 as the PBOC eased supply chains and stabilized commodity prices. Although consumer prices have risen with COVID-19 lockdowns, the increases have remained relatively benign so far.

In short, the PBOC has coordinated monetary policy with both fiscal and industrial policies to boost confidence, promote desired investments and achieve stable growth. It maintains financial stability and policy independence by regulating capital flows, thus avoiding sudden outflows, and interest rate hikes in response.

Improving policy coordination
Central bankers monitor aggregate indicators, such as wages growth. However, before reacting to upward wage movements, the context needs to be considered. For example, wages may have stagnated, or the labour share of income may have declined over the long-term.

Moreover, wage increases may be needed for critical sectors facing shortages to attract workers with relevant skills. Wage growth itself may not be the problem. The issue may be weak long-term productivity growth due to deficient investments.

Input-output tables can provide information about sectoral bottlenecks and productivity, while flow-of-funds information reveals what sectors are financially constrained, and which are net savers or debtors.

Such information can helpfully guide design of appropriate, complementary fiscal and monetary policy tools. Undoubtedly, pursuing heterodox policies is challenging in the face of policy fetters imposed by current orthodoxies.

Central bank independence – with dogmatic mandates for inflation targeting and capital account liberalization – precludes better coordination, e.g., between fiscal and monetary authorities. It also undercuts the policy space needed to address both demand- and supply-side inflation.

Monetary authorities are under tremendous pressure to be seen to be responding to rising prices. But experience reminds us they can easily make things worse by acting inappropriately. The answer is not greater central bank independence, but rather, improved economic policy coordination.

IPS UN Bureau

 


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Call to Invest ‘Serious Resources’ in Education, to Stem Tide of Child Labour

Significant investments from the international community will be needed to get free quality education for every child. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS

Significant investments from the international community will be needed to get free quality education for every child. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS

By Cecilia Russell
Durban, May 17 2022 – “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to eliminate child labour.” So said Dennis Sinyolo, Director of Education International’s African Regional Office in Accra, Ghana adapting liberation icon and late South African president Nelson Mandela’s famous quote about how education can change the world.

Sinyolo was participating in a themed discussion on education at the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour.

The panellists agreed that the investment in teachers was also crucial to ending child labour.

Sinyolo noted that teachers are the ones who identify those out of school, raise awareness about schooling and mobilise to get them into school.

Cornelius Williams, Director Child Protection for UNICEF, noted that a worrying trend in increased child labour has developed in the two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 1.5 million learners were affected by school closures.

“This has been a huge setback against education and also a setback in child labour,” said Williams.

He said that 16.8 m more children in the age group from 5 to 11 were working, which was expected to rise. One-third of these were out of school, and for every child out of school – another balances work and school.

The role of teachers was also highlighted by Malawi’s Education Minister, Agnes NyaLonje.

In her country, two million children are in child labour.

She called on the “global education community to mobilise serious resources” as developing countries, with a large population of school-going children, struggled to pay for infrastructure and provide free quality education for at least 12 years.

“Funding is inadequate,” NyaLonje said. “The situation of Malawi, I think is a case in point, population increases at 3% a year and the majority of the young population, which is over three-quarters of the population, in the country is (aged) zero to 15 which are the clients of education.”

She said for developing countries like Malawi, there was never enough money to adequately fund both infrastructure and education.

“No matter how much we try to put aside part of budgets, it is never enough.”

During discussions this week Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi estimated it would take 22 billion US dollars per year to ensure education for all children. He said he would engage the leaders of the G7 to ensure that child labour and issues of education were at the forefront of the world’s political agenda.

NyaLonje said teachers need support. She told a story about the saddest thing she experienced after the country was devastated by Cyclone Ana. She had told teachers that they needed to go back to work within days of the cyclone, despite the impact on infrastructure.

However, the impact of her instruction was brought home by the plight of a disabled teacher, who was saved during the cyclone by being carried out of the house by his daughters. Now homeless and disabled, he was expected to prepare to return to teaching.

The impact of natural disasters was also apparent in Durban, where the conference is being held. Apart from already being behind with schools and infrastructure development due to historical apartheid-driven lack of development, Kwazi Mshengu MEC Education, Kwa-Zulu Natal, told the conference that the recent floods, where about 500 people lost their lives, also had wrecked schooling infrastructure.

Mshengu said that because of historical injustices, the disadvantaged settled wherever they could find land close to economic opportunities. The floods affected 630 schools were affected with 101 schools completely inaccessible.

“We are also sitting with learners with no families and homes and sheltering in community halls … their parents were swept away in the floods. We need to join hands to ensure that they don’t have to turn to forced labour in order to feed themselves,” Mshengu said.

All the delegates had strong words to add to the Durban Call to Action, which will be released on Friday when the conference closes.

Dawit David Moges Alemu of the Ethiopian Federation of Employers said it was important for leaders to stick to their commitments.

Sinyolo advised that closing the gap between policy and practice was crucial.

“Education should be free and genuinely free,” he said at least for the first 12 years. He called for support and investments in teachers and ensured their remuneration was fair.

Mshengu called for a system that engenders a value system that “loves their kids” and puts the children at the centre of the system.

Nguyen Thi Ha, Vice Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Viet Nam called for enhanced quality vocational training.

NyaLonje reiterated her call for serious resources to be found for education but crucially too called for an investment in teachers, because sustainable development begins with education.

IPS UN Bureau Report

This is one of a series of stories that IPS will publish during the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in Durban, South Africa.


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Floods Drive Urban Solutions in Brazilian Metropolis

Pollution from urban sewage is visible in the Onça (jaguar, in Portuguese) River, near its mouth, seen here from the entrance bridge in the Ribeiro de Abreu neighborhood that suffers frequent flooding when it rains heavily in Belo Horizonte, capital of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, in southeastern Brazil. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Pollution from urban sewage is visible in the Onça (jaguar, in Portuguese) River, near its mouth, seen here from the entrance bridge in the Ribeiro de Abreu neighborhood that suffers frequent flooding when it rains heavily in Belo Horizonte, capital of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, in southeastern Brazil. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, May 17 2022 – “We do everything through parties, we don’t want power, we don’t want to take over the role of the State, but we don’t just protest and complain,” said Itamar de Paula Santos, a member of the United Community Council for Ribeiro de Abreu (Comupra), in this southeastern Brazilian city.

Ribeiro de Abreu is one of the neighborhoods most affected by recurrent flooding in Belo Horizonte, capital of the state of Minas Gerais, as it is located on the right bank of the Onça (jaguar, in Portuguese) River, on the lower stretch, into which the water drains from a 212 square kilometer basin made up of numerous streams.

Cleaning up the river and preventing its waters from continuing to flood homes requires actions that also produce social benefits.

“We have so far removed 736 families who were living in high-risk situations, on the riverbank,” Santos told IPS in the same place where precarious and frequently flooded shacks gave way to the Community Riverside Park (Parque Ciliar, in Portuguese), which has a garden, soccer field, children’s playground and fruit trees.

The project, begun by local residents together with Comupra and the local government in 2015 and gradually implemented since then, aims to extend the community park 5.5 kilometers upstream through several neighborhoods by 2025.

This includes doubling the number of families resettled, cleaning up the Onça basin and its nine beaches, three islands and three waterfalls, preserving nature and developing urban agriculture, and creating areas for sports and cultural activities. All with participatory management and execution.

Itamar de Paula Santos, an activist with the United Community Council for Ribeiro de Abreu, longs to go back to swimming and fishing in the Onça River, as he did in his childhood. But its waters, polluted by urban waste, often flood the riverside neighborhoods in the rainy season as the river flows through the city of Belo Horizonte, in southeastern Brazil. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Itamar de Paula Santos, an activist with the United Community Council for Ribeiro de Abreu, longs to go back to swimming and fishing in the Onça River, as he did in his childhood. But its waters, polluted by urban waste, often flood the riverside neighborhoods in the rainy season as the river flows through the city of Belo Horizonte, in southeastern Brazil. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Displaced within the same neighborhood

The families removed from the flood-prone riverbank now live mostly in safe housing in the same Ribeiro de Abreu neighborhood, which had 16,000 inhabitants at the 2010 census, but is now estimated to be home to 20,000 people.

The Belo Horizonte city government has a rule to resettle families from risky areas in places no more than three kilometers from where they used to live, Ricardo Aroeira, director of Water Management of the Municipal Secretariat of Works and Infrastructure, told IPS.

That is the case of Dirce Santana Soares, 55, who now lives with her son, her mother and four other family members in a five-bedroom house, with a yard where she grows a variety of fruit trees and vegetables.

“It’s the best thing that could have happened to us,” she said. Five years ago she lived next to the river, which flooded her shack, almost always in the wee hours of the morning, every year during the rainiest months in Belo Horizonte – December and January.

“We had bunk beds and we piled everything we wanted to save on top of them. Then we built a second floor on the house, leaving the first floor to the mud,” she told IPS. “But I didn’t want to leave the neighborhood where I had been living for 34 years.”

She was lucky. After receiving the compensation for leaving her riverside shack, an acquaintance sold her their current home, at a low price, with long-term interest-free installments.

View of a beach on the Onça River, which the movement for clean rivers wants to recuperate as a recreational area for the local population in the city of Belo Horizonte, in southeastern Brazil. At this spot, the Onça River receives the waters of the Isidoro stream. There are another eight beaches to be restored as well. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

View of a beach on the Onça River, which the movement for clean rivers wants to recuperate as a recreational area for the local population in the city of Belo Horizonte, in southeastern Brazil. At this spot, the Onça River receives the waters of the Isidoro stream. There are another eight beaches to be restored as well. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Bad luck

Soares, who is now a domestic worker, had a daycare center that started losing money in the face of the increased offer of free nursery schools by the local government, and the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years.

Itamar Santos, a 64-year-old father of three, has also lived in the neighborhood for almost four decades. Before that, he worked as a mechanical lathe operator in other cities and for three years in Carajás, the large iron ore mine in the eastern Amazon, 1,600 km north of Belo Horizonte.

In 1983, in Carajás, he lost his right leg when he fell into a 12-meter well. “It was night-time, and there was no electricity, just dark jungle,” he explained. After the first painful impact, he learned to live with his disability and regained the joy of living, with a specially adapted car.

He became an activist and among his achievements were free bus tickets for paraplegics and a gymnasium for multiple sports. “Creating conditions that enable the disabled to leave their homes is therapeutic,” he told IPS.

View of a community garden that local residents in the Ribeiro de Abreu neighborhood cultivate on the banks of the Onça River. Some 140 families who suffered annual flooding were resettled and now live in safe housing in the same part of Belo Horizonte, a metropolis in southeastern Brazil. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

View of a community garden that local residents in the Ribeiro de Abreu neighborhood cultivate on the banks of the Onça River. Some 140 families who suffered annual flooding were resettled and now live in safe housing in the same part of Belo Horizonte, a metropolis in southeastern Brazil. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

But the cause that impassions him today is the river, which in January has a heavy flow due to the heavy rains that month, but dries up in September, in the dry season.

“Let the Onça drink clean water” is the slogan of a movement also promoted by Santos, to emphasize the protection and recovery of the thousands of springs that supply the river and its tributary streams.

Every year since 2008, this movement, driven by Comupra, organizes meetings for reflection and debate on the revitalization of the river in riverside venues in different neighborhoods in the basin.

The festivities are also repeated annually, or more often. Carnival brings joy to the local population on the beaches or squares along the banks of the Onça River, and giant Christmas trees are set up for the communities to come out and celebrate the holidays.

The basin, or more precisely sub-basin, of the Onça River comprises the northern half of the territory and the population of Belo Horizonte, which totals 2.5 million inhabitants. The south, which is richer, is where the Arrudas River is located.

Both emerge in the neighboring municipality to the west, Contagem, and flow east into the Das Velhas River, the main source of water for the six million inhabitants of Greater Belo Horizonte. As they cross heavily populated areas, they are the main polluters of the Velhas basin.

Major floods in the provincial capital occur mainly in the Onça sub-basin. The steep topography of Belo Horizonte makes the soil more impermeable, leading to more disasters.

Maria José Zeferino, a retired teacher from neighboring schools, at the Our Lady of Mercy Park, which was built to clean up a stream from urban pollution that was spreading diarrhea and parasites among the students of three nearby schools, in Belo Horizonte, a city in southeastern Brazil. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Maria José Zeferino, a retired teacher from neighboring schools, at the Our Lady of Mercy Park, which was built to clean up a stream from urban pollution that was spreading diarrhea and parasites among the students of three nearby schools, in Belo Horizonte, a city in southeastern Brazil. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Other riverbank parks

The Belo Horizonte city government has been working on drainage plans for years and has been implementing the Program for the Environmental Recovery of the Valley and Creek Bottoms since 2001.

In April it published the Technical Instruction for the Elaboration of Drainage Studies and Projects, under the general coordination of Aroeira.

Since the end of the last century there has been a “paradigm shift,” said Aroeira. Channeling watercourses used to be the norm, but this “merely shifted the site of the floods.” Now the aim is to contain the torrents and to give new value to rivers, integrating them into the urban landscape, cleaning them up and at the same time improving the quality of life of the riverside populations, he explained.

The construction of long, narrow linear parks, which combines the clean-up of rivers or streams with environmental preservation, riverside reforestation and services for the local population, is one of the “structural” measures that can be seen in Belo Horizonte.

The participation of students and teachers from three neighboring schools stood out in the implementation in 2008 of the Nossa Senhora da Piedad Park in the Aarão Reis neighborhood, home to 8,300 inhabitants in 2010, near the lower section of the Onça River.

Cleaning up the creek that gives the park its name was the major environmental and sanitary measure.

“Sewage from the entire neighborhood contaminated the stream and caused widespread illnesses among the children, such as diarrhea, verminosis (parasites in the bronchial tubes) and nausea,” Maria José Zeferino, a retired art teacher at one of the local schools, told IPS.

The medicinal herb garden in the Primer de Mayo Ecological Park was a demand of the local population in the southern Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte. Creation of the park included the clean-up of a polluted stream and provides a gathering and recreational area for local residents. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

The medicinal herb garden in the Primer de Mayo Ecological Park was a demand of the local population in the southern Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte. Creation of the park included the clean-up of a polluted stream and provides a gathering and recreational area for local residents. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

The park, which belongs to the municipality, has an area of 58,000 square meters, a pond, three courts for different sports, a skateboarding area and a paved walkway for the elderly. A total of 143 families and one farm received compensation to vacate the area, leaving many fruit trees behind.

“A clean river was our dream. And the goal of the next stage is to have swimming, fishing and boating in the city’s streams,” said Zeferino.

The Primer de Mayo Ecological Park, in the neighborhood of the same name with 2,421 inhabitants according to the 2010 census, was built during the revitalization of the stream of the same name, covering 33,700 square meters along a winding terrain. The novelty is a medicinal herb garden, a demand of the local population.

“We discovered 70 springs here that feed the stream that runs into the Onça River,” said Paulo Carvalho de Freitas, an active member of the Community Commission that supports the municipal management of the park and carries out educational activities there.

“My fight for the future is to remove much of the concrete with which the park was built, which waterproofs the soil and goes against one of the objectives of the project,” which was inaugurated in 2008, said Freitas.

It’s Time To Globalise Compassion, Says Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi addresses the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour. Despite setbacks, he is optimistic that child labour can be abolished. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi addresses the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour. Despite setbacks, he is optimistic that child labour can be abolished. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS

By Fawzia Moodley
Durban, May 16 2022 – A mere 35 billion US dollars per annum – equivalent to 10 days of military spending – would ensure all children in all countries benefit from social protection, Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi told the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour.

He said this was a small price to pay considering the catastrophic consequences of the increase in child labour since 2016, after several years of decline in child labour numbers.

An estimated 160 000 million kids are child labourers, and unless there is a drastic reversal, another 9 million are expected to join their ranks.

Satyarthi was among a distinguished group of panellists on setting global priorities for eliminating child labour. The panel included International Labour Organisation(ILO) DG Guy Ryder, South African Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, James Quincey, CEO of Coca Cola,  Alliance 8.7 chairperson Anousheh Karver and European Union Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen.

The panel discussed child labour in the context of decent work deficits and youth employment. It identified pressing global challenges and priorities for the international community.

Satyarthi said the 35 million US dollars was far from a big ask. Nor was the 22 billion US dollars needed to ensure education for all children. He said this was the equivalent of what people in the US spent on tobacco over six days.

Satyarthi said it was a travesty that the G7, the world’s wealthiest countries, had never debated child labour – something he intends to change.

The panellists attributed the increase in child labour to several factors, including lack of political will, lack of interest from rich countries and embedded cultural and economic factors.

Asked how he remained optimistic in light of the dismal picture of growing child labour rates. Satyarthi told IPS that having been in the trenches for 40 years, he had seen and been happy to see a decline in child labour until 2016 – when the problem began escalating again.

“I strongly believe in freedom of human beings. The world will slowly move towards a more compassionate society, sometimes faster, sometimes slower,” he said.

Satyarthi, together with organisations like the ILO, succeeded in putting the issue of child labour on the international agenda. Through his foundation in collaboration with other NGOs, he got the world to take note of this hidden scourge.

He is convinced that child labour will be eliminated despite the recent setbacks.

“I am hopeful because there was no ILO programme when I started 40 years ago. Child labour was not recognised as a problem, but slowly, it is being realised that it’s wrong and evil – even a crime. So, 40 years isn’t a big tenure in the history of human beings. This scourge has been there for centuries.”

Yet he recognises the need for urgency to roll back the escalation of child labour.

“The next ten years are even more important because now we have the means, we have power, technology, and we know the solution. The only thing we need is a strong political will but also social will,” Satyarthi said. “We have to speed it up and bring back the hope. Bring back the optimism. The issue is a priority, and that’s why we are calling on markets to globalise compassion. There are many things to divide us, but there’s one thing we all agree on: the well-being of our children.”

Satyarthi said to meet the SDG deadline of 2025, he and other Nobel laureates and world leaders are pushing hard to ensure that child labour starts declining again.

“We as a group of Nobel laureates and world leaders are working on two fronts. One is a fair share for children on budgetary allocations and policies,” he said.

The group engaged with governments to ensure that children received a fair share of the budget and resources.

Then they are pushing governments on social protection, which he believes in demystifying.

“We have seen in different countries, social protection – helping through school feeding schemes, employment programmes and conditional grant programmes to ensure that children can go to school, with proven success in bringing down child labour.”

The Nobel laureate knocked on the doors of the leaders of wealthy nations.

“I have been talking to leaders of rich countries to address the problem of post-pandemic economic meltdown. We have to work for social protection for marginalised people in low-income countries and focus on children, education, health, and protection. That is not a big investment compared to what we are going to lose – a whole generation.”

Satyarthi said he was heartened by the response to their efforts to motivate governments and the private sector to join the fight against child labour.

“I have been optimistic to say many of the governments and EU leaders are not only listening – they are talking about it. Yesterday only, I was so happy that President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke very explicitly on this issue, and almost everyone was talking about this issue. But it took several months, several years to get there.”

And Satyarthi is not going to stop soon. With the Laureates and Leaders For Children project, he and fellow laureates are determined the world sits up and finds the will to ensure every child can experience a childhood.

IPS UN Bureau Report

This is part of a series of stories published by IPS during the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in Durban. 

 


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No Climate Transition Without Securing Land Rights

The 15th session of the Conference of Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), is taking place in Abidjan Côte d’Ivoire, from 9 to 20 May 2022. The theme: “Land, Life. Legacy: From scarcity to prosperity.” “We are faced with a crucial choice,” Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told participants: “We can either reap the benefits of land restoration now or continue on the disastrous path that has led us to the triple planetary crisis of climate, biodiversity and pollution”

By Alexander Müller and Jes Weigelt
BERLIN, May 16 2022 – The landmark land tenure decision by parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in 2019 offers a blueprint for upcoming climate negotiations in Sharm El Sheikh in November.

The ongoing UNCCD COP15 conference in Abidjan (May 9-20) is taking necessary next steps to guide countries on how to embed land rights within national implementation processes.

As the first of the three Rio Conventions (addressing climate, biodiversity and desertification respectively) to explicitly refer to land tenure as a critical enabler for the transition to more sustainable pathways, this meeting could advance the landmark land tenure decision by proposing guidelines to safeguard legitimate land rights, argues Berlin-based think tank TMG Research.

According to the UNCCD’s recently published Global Land Outlook, roughly $44 trillion of economic output (more than half of global GDP) is moderately or highly reliant on natural capital.

Yet this natural resource base is under intense pressure from changing land use patterns and the accelerated impacts of climate change. This already has huge consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable communities, who depend on natural resources for their survival, and even more people will be affected as natural capital dwindles.

Current land restoration efforts, such as the global goal of restoring 1 billion hectares of degraded land or achieving ‘land degradation neutrality’ by 2030, are seen as offering new opportunities to tackle the impacts of climate change while addressing food security needs, creating livelihood opportunities, especially in rural areas, and countering growing land-based conflicts and migration.

But such initiatives need to account for all existing legitimate tenure rights for Indigenous Peoples, smallholder farmers and pastoralists, women and youth, and other vulnerable groups.

Otherwise, restoration efforts and especially large-scale investments will lead to new conflicts, violating the rights of people and risking the success of the planned measure.

The UNCCD is the first of the three ‘Rio Conventions’ to explicitly recognize the importance of safeguarding all forms of legitimate land tenure – especially for women, youth, Indigenous communities, and smallholder farmers and pastoralists – as a prerequisite for the sustainable management of land and other natural resources.

But with land governance enacted at the national and sub-national levels, how can this progressive decision at the global level translate into a governance environment that promotes good land stewardship by strengthening the land rights of vulnerable groups at the local level?

As noted by the Global Land Outlook, “land is the operative link between biodiversity loss and climate change,” but to deliver on global aspirations, restoration must take place “in the right places and at the right scales.”

We therefore welcome the decision to devote a ministerial roundtable at COP15 to the theme of “Rights, Rewards and Responsibilities – the future of land stewardship” and invite TMG to deliver the keynote address.

The relationship between a decision on principles of good governance at global level and action on the ground must acknowledge that “all land stewardship is local.” This means that “localizing” the global land tenure decision requires analyzing the concrete situation on the ground, respecting people’s rights and strengthening the ability of local communities to protect their rights and become actively involved in restoration processes.

This approach is particularly critical for the implementation of global efforts to achieve carbon neutrality and afforestation for carbon offsetting purposes.

Our work with national partners in four African countries points to how the link between legitimate tenure rights and restoration can be made. National governments must incorporate land rights as a starting point in developing restoration agendas, including their UNCCD targets to achieve land degradation neutrality.

We welcome the strong statements made by many countries at the session and the commitment of multilateral agencies to support countries in more explicitly linking land governance and policies to reverse land degradation, desertification and drought. At its heart, this calls for “changing mindsets towards land tenure,” as FAO’s Maria Helena Semedo noted.

The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) were designed to do exactly this. Adopted exactly 10 years ago by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), the VGGT are “true connectors” of work across the three Rio Conventions, in the words of CFS Vice Chair Gabriel Ferrero de Loma-Osorio.

The UNCCD/FAO Technical Guide on implementing the land tenure decision in the context of the VGGT, which TMG helped develop, explains how to reinforce actions at the sub-national and local levels by building on efforts by communities and civil society organizations.

Our ongoing partnership with four African governments shows how responsible land governance can be meaningfully realized from the ground up.

Explore the Human Rights & Land Navigator, launched at UNCCD’s COP15, on May 12th in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. This tool was developed by TMG Research, the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the Malawi Human Rights Commission, with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Alexander Müller is Founder & Managing Director, TMG Think Tank for Sustainability, based in Berlin, with a regional office in Nairobi; Jes Weigelt is Head of Programmes, TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

IPS UN Bureau

 


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